Showing posts with label Integrity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Integrity. Show all posts

Monday, March 18, 2013

When Trust Is Violated

Many years ago, when our daughter Alison was a toddler, we hired a neighborhood teen, “Jane,” to babysit. Jane seemed to genuinely enjoy being with Alison and took good care of her while we were gone.

A short time later I happened to run into Jane and her mother outside the local grocery store. What started out as a friendly exchange suddenly turned to feelings of shock and horror. That’s because I just happened to look at Jane’s hand as she brought it up to wipe her bangs out of her face.

On her finger was one of my rings!

A sickening feeling settled into my stomach as the reality sank in. The only way she could have gotten access to that ring was to go into my closet and then into my jewelry box. I felt violated and betrayed. I had trusted her not just with Alison but with everything in our house.

My heart felt like it was going to pound through my chest when I said, “That is MY ring you’re wearing. You stole that from my house.”

Now it was her mother’s turn to look horrified. She looked at her daughter, then at me and then back at Jane. “Is that true?” she asked Jane.

At first Jane denied it. But when I described where and when I’d purchased the ring, she admitted that she had taken it.

Her mother was mortified because she and I were good friends. She had eagerly volunteered Jane’s services when she’d learned we were looking for a babysitter. And of course, I assumed Jane could be trusted.

Clearly, I’d been wrong about that.

This was a very awkward moment for all of us. Jane removed the ring from her finger, and handed it to me. “I’m sorry,” she muttered.

I had to ask the question. “Did you take anything else?”

“No,” she said, looking down at the ground.

At that point I had no confidence in her answer, but I couldn’t be sure if anything else was missing until I returned home to check.

Meanwhile, we parted ways.

A few hours later, Jane and her father appeared at our front door. In her hands she carried another piece of jewelry and two other personal items. She could barely look at me, but she placed them in my hands and said, “I’m so sorry. These are yours, too.”

The three of us had a lengthy conversation, processing what she had done.

I explained that stealing is a criminal offense and I could call the police to report the theft. Although I assured them I was not going to do that, I did tell her there would be a significant consequence. She had violated the trust we’d put in her, and she would never be allowed in our home again. I wasn’t willing to risk her stealing or lying to me again.

Doing the right thing requires a lot of inner strength, especially when no one else is looking. It’s easy to act impulsively and not think through the potential consequences of our actions. We all face situations where we have to make moral and ethical choices. We’d do well to heed this wisdom from Thomas Jefferson: “Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching." 

Because here’s the harsh reality. When you intentionally do something wrong, even when it looks like you got away with it, somebody gets hurt. Your relationship with those affected by your actions could be permanently destroyed if they find out. And even if no one else ever knows, you suffer negative consequences. You know what you did was not aligned with your values, so your conscience will bother you. The incident causes lasting damage to your self-image and your self-respect.

So whenever you’re faced with hard choices or conflicting alternatives, just be honest with yourself. In almost every case, you’ll know in your heart the right thing to do. And each time you do the right thing, you have no regrets, nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.

"The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it's very difficult to build and very easy to destroy." - Thomas J. Watson, Sr., American business leader (1874-1956)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why Integrity Is the Foundation for Trust

I was riding a shuttle to the airport after attending a marketing conference for entrepreneurs. The 20-minute ride flew by as I engaged in a lively conversation with “Nathan,” a fellow attendee I’d met the evening before at a networking event. As the shuttle pulled up to the terminal for Nathan’s flight, we exchanged business cards and agreed it would be a great idea to stay in touch.

Nathan handed the driver his credit card to pay the $20 fee. The driver explained that he couldn’t take credit cards, that Nathan would have to go to the shuttle ticket counter to make payment. But my new acquaintance was running late, so he turned to me and asked, “Can you loan me $20? I’m going to miss my flight if I have to go way over there and buy a ticket!”

I hesitated for a moment. Could I trust him to pay me back?

I’d just met Nathan and knew very little about him. He’d been talking about the success he was having in his business and I concluded it was a low risk. It was only $20, after all, so if he didn’t end up sending me the money, it was no big deal.

I dug my wallet out of my purse and handed him a twenty dollar bill. He said “Thanks so much,” gave the money to the driver and hurried into the terminal.

A few weeks went by and I heard nothing from Nathan. Then one day he called and said, “Hey, I owe you money! Where should I send the check?”

I gave him my mailing address, and he thanked me again for bailing him out at the airport that day. The check arrived within a couple of days and the next week I deposited it.

I felt good about my decision to help Nathan out…and about him… that is, until I got a notice a few days later saying that his check had bounced and my bank had charged a $10 fee to my account. So now I was out $30!

I called Nathan and told him what happened. He sheepishly responded, “I know.”

You know?! You mean you already knew the check had bounced and you didn’t have the guts to call and tell me? You took the coward’s way out and let me find out from my bank so I had to call YOU? What were you thinking?! 

I screamed all this inside my head, not to him. Because his next words were, “I’m not very good at managing my money. It turns out I didn’t have enough cash in my bank account to cover the check.”

How could you send a check to someone you hoped would refer prospective clients to you - and not be certain if the money was in the bank? Do you have any idea what kind of impression you’ve just made?

What I actually said, after taking a deep breath, was, “Gee, Nathan, that’s too bad. What needs to happen now is for you to send me a cashier’s check or money order for $30, to cover the $20 you owe me, plus the $10 bank fee. I’m not willing to risk getting another personal check from you. I’m sure you can understand.”

“Yes, of course. I’ll get that to you right away,” he assured me.

Two weeks passed. Nothing. 

I left a voicemail message and also emailed him. No threats, no angry words, just a reminder that I was expecting a cashier’s check or money order and had not received it.

No response.

It was no longer a matter of the money. It was the principle. His actions violated one of my core values: Honor your promises. Do what you say you’ll do. 

Two weeks later I left another voicemail and emailed him again. This time he actually called back.

“I mailed the money after we spoke last time. You didn’t get it?”

“No, Nathan, I didn’t. You’ll need to send it again,” I said flatly. I didn’t believe him. His previous behavior caused me to have no faith in his words.

He promised to put it in the mail right away, which confirmed my suspicion that he’d never sent it in the first place. It took another month but I did eventually receive his check.

Do you think I’ll ever send any business his way?

You may be shaking your head, thinking, I’d never do anything like that.

Yet there are hundreds of moments in your own life where you prove to others through your actions that you’re trustworthy—or not.

  • You say you’ll meet someone at 1:00 for lunch, and you arrive twenty minutes late because you didn’t plan well or consider the impact on that person.
  • You agree to call someone you met at a networking function, but you never get around to it.
  • You tell a colleague that you’ll complete your part of a project by a certain time, but you miss the deadline because you procrastinated.

Think carefully before you make commitments that will affect someone else. Your relationship and your reputation depend on your integrity. Use this wisdom from Warren Buffet as your guide:

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Friday, September 30, 2011

Break-in at Our Office Building

When I walked in to our office building at 7:30am on September 13, I couldn’t believe what I saw.

This is a very attractive two-story brick building with lots of glass, located in an upscale business park. But you wouldn’t have guessed it that morning.

Sometime during the night, thieves shattered one of the side glass doors. Apparently they had scoped out the building and realized the security system extended only to the locks. There were no sensors on the glass doors or windows so the alarm did not go off when they broke in.

The robbers proceeded to violently enter the offices of two tenants. Fortunately, we weren’t one of them.

I say “violently” because they took an axe to one of the wooden doors and literally chopped out the area around the lock. With the other office, they used that same axe or another strong instrument to break the glass door.

Expensive new computers and electronic equipment were the apparent targets. The thieves likely cased the building in advance and selected these offices. They both have glass entries so a lot of their equipment is clearly visible to anyone walking by.

Even though my company’s office was spared, I still felt violated.

I immediately recalled the time three years ago when a different thief boldly entered my office while I was in the ladies room and stole my wallet. It felt creepy to know my movements had been watched.

When you’re a law-abiding citizen and play by the rules, it’s more than unsettling to experience the effects of these kinds of criminal behavior.

It’s a violation of basic trust. Not just concern about thieves breaking in, but also questioning the integrity of the owner of our building. Why hadn’t he taken measures to secure the windows and doors since there was so much glass? Why weren't there security cameras inside and outside the building to record movement after hours?

I was reminded how fragile trust is in relationships.

A single act of betrayal can destroy years of trust-building. The building’s glass was shattered in just a few minutes. The effects of lying, cheating or infidelity can be just as instantly devastating, whether it’s a personal or professional relationship.

I think it’s appropriate to feel outrage about robbery and other violent crimes, and I certainly want to see justice done.

But this incident also forced me to take a hard look at my own motives and behavior, to make sure I act with integrity in the way I live my life.

How about you? 
"The toughest thing about the power of trust is that it's very difficult to build and very easy to destroy." - Thomas J. Watson, Sr., American business leader (1874-1956)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Integrity - Keep Your Word and Honor Your Promises

It’s not always easy to do the right thing, especially if no one’s watching. But it’s always worth it. Trust hangs in the balance. You can destroy relationships quickly when you show a lack of integrity, so it’s critical that what you say is consistent with what you do. Applying these insights will strengthen your relationships and your self-respect. 


What are you doing each day to ensure that you continue to build trust in all your relationships?
“As I grow older I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” - Andrew Carnegie

“Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.” - Janis Joplin

“You cannot make yourself feel something you do not feel, but you can make yourself do right in spite of your feelings.” - Pearl Buck